Saturday, July 4, 2015

Open records scandal- the plot thickens

The debate over the increasingly-hated gutting of the state's open records law by the Joint Finance Committee this week is not just anger from Wisconsinites of all stripes at what is clearly an attempt to shield elected officials from the public that pays their salaries. There's also a question of "who gave the order?" as none of the 12 Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee that voted for that pile of garbage is saying that he or she was the one who formally put that into the session-ending 999 provision. However, we are starting to get some clues, and some fingers seem to be pointing directly up the Capitol's steps to Governor Scott Walker's office.

Take a look at this article from longtime Madison Capitol reporter Dee Hall, who now heads the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Hall reviews what the JFC's proposal would do, and talks to various state politicos that note the similarities between the bill's attempt to use "the deliberative process" as a reason to deny open records requests, and Walker's office using a similar excuses to avoid giving out documents during this budget, including those related to the rewrite of the University of Wisconsin System's mission statement and the literal removal of the Wisconsin Idea from state doctrine. And back in February, Walker blamed a "drafting error" for the change before open records revealed the order to be coming from the top.
Although Walker initially denied any involvement, the Wisconsin State Journal and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other outlets used the state open records law to confirm that the governor’s office was behind the effort to rewrite the mission statement.

“Governor Walker’s office acted outside Wisconsin’s open records law in denying our basic request to see communications that were behind removing the ‘Wisconsin Idea’ from our statutes,” {writer for The Progessive] Jud Lounsbury said in an email. “So we took them to court. Instead of following the law, they’ve decided to change the law.”

Christa Westerberg, vice president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, noted similarities between Walker’s invocation of a deliberative process exemption in recent months and the proposal in the “Motion 999” amendment to the state budget passed Thursday.

“It’s strangely coincidental that we’re seeing the deliberative process exemption in the budget within months of the Governor’s office and Department of Administration attempting a similar exemption in recent (open records) responses,” said Westerberg, a Madison attorney who also is legal counsel for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.
Funny how that stuff works, doesn't it? The JFC member who put that language into the 999 amendment had just the same idea. Imagine that!

Two tweets yesterday from Dem members of the Joint Finance Committee also add to this intrigue over whether Walker's office is the one that wanted the change.

And State Sen. Jon Erpenbach seems to back up Hintz's claim.

The silence, blubbering and backtracking from GOP members of the JFC is also telling- no one seems to want to own this, which sure would be the act of someone who was doing this move for someone else. Now why they want to risk their own re-election chances in 2016 by signing onto this fascist pile of crap is beyond me, but maybe these people are so far in to the RW bubble that they think they can get away with almost anything. Or they and the Governor's office are guilty as hell of criminal corruption and are trying desperately to cover it up by any means necessary (constitutional or otherwise).

Keep your ear to the ground, because there's a whole lot more to come as these guys try to figure out what to do with this as the full Assembly and Senate debate the state budget in the next couple of weeks. Maybe this move resembles what has been described in graphics as a "hairy hand" - a distraction from the other ridiculous and regressive crap in this budget. But given that even the Walker cheerleader and Journal-Sentinel managing editor George Stanley is expressing his blistering disagreement with this, it would seem to be a very stupid tactic.

Somehow, I don't think this is what the "'Murican" WisGOP party wanted to be talking about as they appeared in their communities' 4th of July parades, but they did it to themselves, either through following orders from the Governor's office, or through their own anti-democratic leanings. And I don't feel in any way sorry for them.


  1. Did you catch the Walker/Vos/Fitz/Darling/Nygren press release today, Jake?

    Notably they only say they'll remove it from the budget... and that they'll be putting it to the Legislature anyway, merely separately.

    It fooled the WSJ editors.

  2. Good catch, they'll "study it for later". and it keeps the door open for future scumbaggery.

    I'm not trusting these people to boot these provisions until the Assembly actually votes it out, and that the vast majority of legislators say WE WILL NOT ALLOW THIS BACK IN.

    And just because they might back down on this being in the budget (for now), that doesn't mean there isn't a whole lot of other heinous stuff left in. We need to keep the pressure up.

  3. This isn't going away. Walker never reverses, especially on a holiday of all things--there's a lot more to this. Hopefully this will finally lead people to ask who wrote the provisions for expanded firing of UW faculty.

  4. It's not good when one atrocity after another ruins our waking and sleeping. "Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table." (W.H. Auden)

    Thus, this obfuscating, poorly written, 4th of July mish-mash is simply another slick "WhyMar" Wisconsin bit of legislative trickery. I'm done "wishing, hoping, figuring and planning" that we protect our resources; it's getting to be too late for that.

    Look to Nature: who wouldn't want to secure swaths of beautiful Wisconsin for the pleasure of filthy oil magnates who just want $$$ and the opportunity to give it (i.e., Wisconsin) away; i.e., "nobless oblige" (nobility obliges).

    They even banned the words "living wage" (Item 58).

    When what's left of Wisconsin is enjoyed solely by those who sail Lake Superior off Bayfield and those who are not affected by the corrupt illness that throws the ecosystem out of whack and makes us sick....No, they do not own homes near pipelines (Note Items 51 & 55 ) or "bomb train" railroad tracks or highways full of fracsand pollution and waters full of CAFO poison.

    This so-called Amendment number 9 number 9 number 9 will push through the pipelines planned since Doyle's regime...GTac was the "hairy hand" that kept us tricked for a while into thinking all's well that ends well.

    1. I mentioned the attempted overriding of Dane County's requirements for Enbridge and related oil company giveaways as part of my bigger post on other junk in the 999.

      And you are correct, these GOPs are disgustingly paid-off by big (Koch) oil, which begs for more open records examination as to who is specifically calling for this garbage.

  5. So I see. Thanks, Jake.

    So, there will be a July 16th "hearing to reconsider"
    the people's demand THAT ENBRIDGE GET A LOT MORE INSURANCE MONEY IN AN ACCOUNT PRIOR TO LETTING THEM CREATE THE INEVITABLE PIPELINE BLOW-OUT DISASTER IN WISCONSIN.; I say stop the pipeline. Do not reconsider, regardless of 999's undemocratic tactics.

    Thanks again for looking into the inner workings of that unscrupulous bunch of "burn up the planet" fossil fuel crooks and lawyers who thought they could just hand Enbridge a "work around" in Wisconsin.

    Think again.


    Access denied. Someone pulled it down.

    You can find the motion here: